Help! Dirty honey

This morning I harvested two frames of my Flow Hive 2 that I have had for a year. The honey that came out of one of the frames had brownish bits of what looks like propolis in it, and some thin worm-like creatures (alive) about 5mm long. The honey from the other frame is perfectly clear and beautiful. I have harvested this frame before with no problems. Can anyone tell me why this has happened, and how I can avoid it in future? I am currently filtering the dirty honey through a Chux cloth - don’t want to waste it!
Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me!

Hi Leigh,

I’m so sorry to hear about your honey - that sounds most unappetising :frowning:

Would you be able to suit up and take some photos to help with identifying the grub?

Hi Freebee2,
Some photos follow …



This photo was taken yesterday during my hive inspection. Didn’t photograph the other side, sorry. This is frame 3, the one that produced the dirty honey today.

Hi Leigh,

How disappointing for you.

These don’t look like wax moth or small hive beetle (SHB) grubs to me. They’re too short for small hive beetle and too long for wax moth grubs, and I can’t see any legs in your pictures.

I don’t think they are late stage bee larvae either, though considered this option, as they’re a bit straight and thin.

My best guess is fruit fly larvae - there unfortunately seem to be a lot of fruit flies around at the moment. Do you have fruit trees (or perhaps compost or bins etc.) nearby?

A cider vinegar trap might help? Simply pour some cider vinegar into a jar with a narrower neck than body, and add a few drops of dish washing detergent without stirring. The fruit flies will head in there to investigate the fruity smell and drown (sorry little dudes).

Hope this helps - and please let us know if you discover any other clues…

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Thanks, the grubs do have legs. Sorry my photography is not great. I think they are likely to be shb larvae, as I saw some shb during my inspection yesterday - more than I had seen previously. I saw about 20 in the flow super, but of course for every one that I saw, there are probably 10 more hiding.
The hive seems strong, and I added a silver bullet beetle trap filled with vegetable oil, and refilled the bottom tray with vegetable oil. I am fairly confident the bees will sort out the beetles, but is there anything else I can do to help them? And is the honey safe to eat, or should I discard it? Thanks so much - I really appreciate your help.

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Ok, right! They’re very small for SHB larvae (these are usually a cm long or more - not sure why since the beetles themselves are so tiny!) If they’re SHB they’ll have three sets of tiny legs at the head end and little spiny bits on their backs. Wax moths look very similar but are shorter and have legs down the length of the body and no spines on their backs. Your honey should be safe to strain and eat if you’re not put off by it - a clean pair of stockings is great for this. I wouldn’t sell it though :wink: But great if it doesn’t go to waste. Those are good steps for the beetles. Some people also like to use a shredded bit of chux to trap them - but veg oil is a popular solution and should work. If you have quite a few SHB, it’s worth being aware that they are very opportunistic and will target a weak colony - so be on the alert for other issues, such as nectar dearth, weak queen, or the presence of another pest or disease, such as AFB/EFB. Not to suggest that you will find other issues - but it’s worth being extra vigilant for the next couple of inspections to be on the safe side :slight_smile:

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Thanks Freebee2,
No, I don’t sell any honey at the moment - just give it away to family. Thanks for the advice on shb. I will definitely keep a close eye on the hive in the next few weeks. Might schedule weekly inspections until we get on top of the shb.
Thanks again!

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My observations of hive beetles is that they start from a tiny egg. Obviously the grubs must start tiny, then grow as they consume food from within the hive. I also notice that at the time of the egg laying, the beetles also dip their body in honey before walking it over the comb, giving it a wet appearance. The purpose of this is to send the honey rancid because their body contains an enzyme to assist in this process. The wet appearance, slime, or fermented honey becomes a bee repellent. It’s a clever strategy they have, because if they can do it in enough places within the hive, & the bees are unable to overwhelm it, the bees will eventually abscond, leaving the whole hive to the beetles to breed up unhindered.

I don’t eat honey from under comb that has that wet appearance. I will still retrieve it & use it as bird honey & label the container appropriately.


Oh that doesn’t sound good! I hope I am not in for a slime out. Thanks for your reply, Jeff. I will definitely keep a very close eye on the hive and do everything I can to support the bees to get rid of the beetles.


Hi & you’re welcome Leigh. I’m also in SE Qld at Buderim. Hive beetles are a major pest around here. I frequently get asked how I control them.



when flow frames get a bit old- debris, fermented honey and grubs can accumulate in the channels. No good. But there’s and easy solution: Buy yourself a very long bottle brush like this:

get a bucket of warm water a few days before you plan to harvest. Open all the channels, dip the brush into the water and and wash out each channel multiple times dipping the brush in the bucket as you go. You can then leave the plugs out of the channels to air dry and/or stuff some paper towel into each one. Should be dry and clean when you go to harvest.

then use a bucket with holes in the lid and lengths of silicon tubing when you harvest so bees cant get into the honey, and you can harvest slowly over hours, incrementally opening the flow frames- (you can also put a fine sieve in line under the bucket lid so the honey is sieved as you harvest). Install a honey tap on the bucket so you can jar it up immediately afterwards (don’t leave it in the bucket until it candies- better to have it candy in the jars). A bucket and tubes like this:

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Thanks Semaphore. I will definitely clean the channels before I harvest next.

Thanks Jeff. I placed a folded Chux cloth between the brood box and the super this morning. I also made a hive beetle trap and hung it in a tree near the hive. What do you do to control hive beetles up your way? I am at Victoria Point.

Hi Leigh, I squash the ones I see, apart from that I do nothing except keeping the brood frames at a very high percentage of worker comb. It’s the workers that will be relentless in stopping them from laying eggs. Drones do nothing to stop beetles from laying eggs. Therefore I try to eliminate any large congregations of drones in the brood box by using this strategy.

It probably wouldn’t hurt for you to check on that frame, as well as the adjacent frames just to make sure that there’s no beetle larvae activity going on. Traps are good, however they can lull us into a false sense of security. I’ve seen & heard of lots of slime-outs where beetle traps were in place.

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